Dr Aoife Brinkley

Principal Clinical Psychologist, General Paediatrics, CHI at Connolly

My day starts just before 7am with the whirlwind task of getting myself and my three children ready for the day ahead. My route to work in CHI at Connolly involves a 45 minute cycle along the Royal Canal towpath.

Travelling beside the water with moorhens, herons and swans as fellow commuters is a joy.

I usually start the working day by checking emails and catching up on admin tasks. The children and families I see are referred for psychological support from the General Paediatric clinics. They might be experiencing difficulties with physical symptoms such as tummy pains and headaches or have difficulties with toileting or eating behaviour. I support parents and children to manage anxiety or to cope with difficult experiences. Although every day is different, I generally have a number of patient sessions booked in. Therapy sessions last about an hour and might involve play, art, role play, and storytelling. My clinic room is large and airy, which means that there’s enough space for family therapy sessions or for getting down on the floor with children. It wouldn’t be unusual for colleagues passing by the room to see a parent, a child and myself all lying on the floor with teddies on our tummies practicing a breathing exercise. I love the playfulness and creativity that is a key part of therapy with children. Between patient sessions, there are opportunities to link with other members of the team, liaise with schools or community services, and to provide supervision to other staff.

Even after 20 odd years of doing this work, I am still inspired and moved by the resilience and strength I see in children and families, even when they are faced with adversity. This is what motivates me. There are challenging moments of course. It is very frustrating, for example, to see the gaps or delays in services such as disability and mental health related services.

If I need to refer someone to another service I might be doing so in the knowledge that they will be on a waiting list for a year or more. A year is a long time in the life of a child.

The OPD in CHI at Connolly was opened last July and I feel proud of establishing psychology as a part of this new service. I’ve been able to see at first-hand the positive impact of a purpose built, child-friendly environment staffed by a committed and enthusiastic team.

My days are quite busy and can be marked by moments of shared sadness with children and families. Because of this, self-care is really important. The thinking I do on my cycle home helps me process the day, so that I’m ready to come home to busy family life. With a number of resident comics in my family, laughter is a regular feature and a great way of relieving stress.

The treasure in CHI at Connolly for me is the trees – both the real trees around the Connolly campus and the balloon tree sculpture that sits in the reception area. The sculpture helps to create a bright colourful space for families as they enter the building and for me, symbolises the hopefulness and fun that is at the core of my work with children.